*Omar seeks CM’s resignation, PDP defends curfew
JAMMU, Jan 3: Amidst massive protests from the combined opposition, Legislative Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta today admitted adjournment motion moved by them and suspended entire business of the House including Question Hour to discuss Kashmir unrest and the civilian killings but the opposition led by former Chief Minister and National Conference president Omar Abdullah staged a walk-out in the afternoon sitting saying Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has taken the discussion “non seriously” as she left for Srinagar in the midst of debate.
As soon as the Assembly began its day’s proceedings, all opposition members from National Conference, Congress, CPM and PDF were on their feet demanding that entire House business should be suspended to take up their adjournment motion on unrest and killings. They were carrying placards in hands with slogans written in Urdu. At the same time, almost all BJP MLAs including Sat Sharma CA, Ravinder Raina and Rajesh Gupta demanded action against Congress for disrespecting National Anthem during the Governor Address yesterday.
It was virtually a din in the Assembly with opposition MLAs shouting slogans against the Government like ‘Qatil Sarkaar Hai Hai (down with killer Government)’ and ‘Hisaab Do Hisaab Do, Maut Ka Hisaab Do (give answers to the killing)’ while BJP MLAs chanted ‘Congress Party Maafi Mango, Maafi Mango (Congress Party should tender an apology)’. Ravinder Raina said the disrespect shown to National Anthem by the Congress was a serious issue and can’t be taken lightly.
Though the Speaker tried to go ahead with the Question Hour, the voice was lost in the din with most of the opposition MLAs trooping on front row shouting slogans demanding discussion on Kashmir unrest and killings and BJP forcibly holding the Congress responsible for showing disrespect to National Anthem.
Twice, the opposition MLAs marched aggressively towards former Minister and BJP MLA Choudhary Sukhnandan when he passed remarked against them. Shouting ‘RSS Hai Hai’ and `Nagpur (the RSS Headquarters) Hai Hai (down with RSS, down with Nagpur)’, they started protesting in front of Sukhnandan, who stoutly defended the RSS and the BJP stand on Jammu and Kashmir.
Both the times, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri rushed towards the seat of Sukhnandan to segregate the MLAs. The Marshals also surrounded the BJP MLA as the opposition members were shouting slogans in front of him. A virtual scuffle between opposition MLAs and Sukhnandan was averted by Veeri and the Marshals. Sukhnandan was demanding stern action against National Conference and Congress MLAs for disrespect shown to national anthem by them.
CPM fourth consecutive time MLA MY Tarigami said when the Parliament and even several world bodies have held discussion on Kashmir unrest, there was nothing wrong in the Assembly debating the issue. “Why are you denying us our right”? he asked the Speaker.
National Conference MLAs urged the Speaker to suspend business of the House and hold discussion on their adjournment motion, which had been moved by 14 MLAs of Congress, NC, CPM and PDF including Omar Abdullah.
Intervening, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri said if the opposition insists on debate, the Government is ready for it. The Speaker then suspended entire business of the Assembly for the day after 20 minutes of protests and allowed discussion on the adjournment motion.
When the debate was on in the afternoon session and Independent MLA Engineer Rashid was speaking, NC Legislature Party leader Omar Abdullah intervened saying he has reports that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has left for Srinagar at 3.10 pm.
“Is this seriousness? This is very non-serious approach. When the Assembly is debating Kashmir unrest and civilian killings, the Chief Minister, who also holds the charge of Home Department, has left for Srinagar,” he said as all opposition members of NC and Congress, present in the House were again on their feet.
The Speaker tried to persuade the Opposition members saying was joint responsibility of the Government and the Ministers were noting the points raised by the MLAs.
Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan said the Deputy Chief Minister is here..the Ministers are here…they are taking the points and the Chief Minister would reply to debate on adjournment motion after the Question Hour on January 9 after five day break in the Assembly from January 4-8.
Haq Khan said initially the Chief Minister had to reply to the debate at 1 pm but the reply was later deferred to 3.30 pm. However, as still there were many members to speak, it was decided that she would reply on next working day (January 9) at 11 am.
However, all MLAs of National Conference and Congress, led by Omar Abdullah, staged a walkout in the House protesting “non-serious” approach of the Chief Minister towards debate on the Kashmir unrest. Congress MLA Usmaan Majeed returned to the House briefly saying the opposition was not given timing of the Chief Minister’s reply. He again left the House.
After the walkout, Omar tweeted: “What a pity that Mehbooba Mufti chose to fly to Srinagar rather than participate in the discussion about the recent summer unrest? It shows her complete lack of concern for the victims, her uncaring attitude & her total disdain for the sanctity of the Assembly of J&K.
“Rather than reply to the discussion, she preferred to fly out so she could lay a handful of foundation stones in the Valley tomorrow!!! She used the State’s plane and could’ve flown out later this evening or early tomorrow morning. She chose to dodge the House & run away”.
Earlier, initiating the debate on adjournment motion, Omar Abdullah demanded that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti should resign for adopting a “casual” approach and taking wrong steps to control the situation during the unrest in the Valley.
“Do you find yourself responsible for the situation?… If anyone is responsible for it, it is you and your Government,” he said in about 50 minutes speech in the Assembly during which he came down heavily on the Government for mishandling the situation from Day 1.
Abdullah said the Chief Minister has not right to continue if she was unwilling to take responsibility.
“You do not have any right to sit on the Chief Minister’s chair if you are unwilling to take responsibility for the situation. The leader has to own his mistakes and learn from it,” he said.
The former Chief Minister said when the news of the killing of three militants, including Burhan Wani, trickled in, “from the experience we have, we got to know the situation was not good.
“When you heard that one of those killed was Burhan Wani, did you analyze the situation properly? What was your preparation? When we talked to the officers, we came to know that a casual approach was adopted to deal with the situation,” he said.
“Surprisingly, the situation was by and large normal where Wani was buried but the rest of the Valley was on fire. Wrong steps were taken one after another.
“There was no governance and it was not known whether the situation was being handled from Srinagar or New Delhi. Different statements came from different people who had nothing to do with the situation,” Omar said.
The ADG of CID had told a press conference that the Chief Minister, who also holds the home portfolio, was informed about the encounter, the NC leader said.
“We want to know how much the Chief Minister was aware of the situation and what steps she took after that,” he said.
The situation worsened after July 8. People died and many were injured. After a few days, the Chief Minister said accountability would be fixed if excessive force was used. But she said parents should control their children and keep them at home, he said.
“We know it is difficult to control kids after a certain age, but shifting Government’s responsibilities to others is not justified. I am aware that when a reply would come from treasury benches, they would refer to 2008 and 2010.
“You cannot compare 2008 and 2010 to 2016. I have never held anybody else responsible for 2010. I never blame the parents of those kids for that situation,” Omar said.
He said he never blamed Pakistan or his officers for the violence in 2010 and did not make anyone a scapegoat or point fingers at Opposition.
“I was sitting on the CM’s chair at that time. What happened was my responsibility. The chair I held made me a father figure to take responsibility and I failed to fulfill those responsibilities,” Omar said, referring to the killing of more than 120 people in the summer of unrest in 2010.
He said the Government urges the Centre to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir issue every time such a situation arises, but “forgets everything as the situation improves”.
“People indulge in politics even in such a situation and make contradictory statements. Everybody else is held responsible…,” he said.
Abdullah said contradictory statements poured in regarding ban on newspapers during unrest.
While Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said there were no restrictions on newspapers, the State Education Minister (Naeem Akhter), who is also the spokesperson of the Government, said the situation forced them to ban newspapers, he recalled.
Referring to the Chief Minister’s speech in the House yesterday, the NC leader said her Government has been holding others responsible for the unrest.
“On one hand, you hold us responsible for the situation and on the other you ask us to come and hold discussions.
“Just yesterday you said the situation is a result of 1987. You are the leader of the House. You have to take it forward. But you are doing what you used to do in opposition. We are more concerned about the situation,” he said.
He said the PDP leadership had in 2010 asked the Centre to remove the Omar Abdullah Government but his party did not do the same when he met the Prime Minister to discuss the Kashmir issue.
Picking holes in Mehbooba’s speech, he said: “You said if you knew Burhan Wani was there in the encounter, you would have given him a second chance. Therefore, the anger of people is justified.
“You said the killings were unavoidable as people had gone to attack police and army camps but in the same speech you said you will not let go waste the sacrifices of these people.”
The Chief Minister has “miserably” failed in bringing normalcy to Kashmir and putting India and Pakistan “on the path of friendship”, he alleged and added that more than 100 people died in the unrest and the bilateral ties took a hit post surgical strikes.
“While the Chief Minister said she would have given Wani a second chance, the Deputy Chief Minister in a function said he was killed by mistake.
“If you accept that you could have given a second chance to Wani and that he was killed by mistake then the anger of people is justified,” he said.
Referring to the killing of a lecturer in Khrew and an ATM Guard in Srinagar, Abdullah demanded that justice be done to “people who were murdered”.
He accused the Chief Minister of lying to people, the Centre and the Supreme court on the situation in the Valley.
Attacking PDP MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Abdullah alleged that he belittled the youth of Kashmir by saying that they were fighting for “appear of dress” and asked the Chief Minister to make her stand clear in this regard.
“Baig gave four contradictory statements on the killing of Wani…That he was killed by a mistake, second that if we knew about him we would give him a second chance, third that he was killed by police to embarrass the chief minister and fourth that he was a militant that is why he was killed,” he said.
The former Chief Minister said the state Finance Minister even went a step ahead to say it was a fake encounter and that he was killed in custody.
“Such contradictory statements were bound to disturb the situation. When we say that the Government had a major role in spoiling the situation, we are not wrong, facts support this thing,” he said.
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Rigzin Jora reiterated that PDP-BJP alliance was responsible for mass uprising in Kashmir as both the parties had aggressively campaigned against each other to secure votes in Kashmir and Jammu respectively but then joined hands to form the Government in violation of the people’s mandate.
“The PDP took votes on the name of stopping Modi. People trusted Mehbooba Mufti and voted her party but she betrayed the people’s mandate. Similarly, the BJP campaigned against ‘Baap-Beti’ and batted for Jammu Government and Hindu Chief Minister to secure votes but later formed the Government with the PDP,” Jora said describing the “unholy alliance” between the two parties as the reason behind the Kashmir unrest.
Saying that it has become a fashion these days to hurl abuses on Jawahar Lal Nehru and other Congress leaders, Jora said the party wouldn’t tolerate pointing finger towards them. He blamed the Government for Kashmir situation, killings and imposition of PSA on the youth.
BJP president Sat Sharma CA described Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani as a terrorist saying that he was killed in an encounter between security forces and terrorists and that there was nothing wrong in his killing.
“A terrorist has to be killed. Burhan Wani met his fate,” Sharma said.
Sharma said the security forces had to take permission for killing terrorists in the regime of previous Governments but in the PDP-BJP Government, no such permission was required.
The BJP president countered the charges against PDP-BJP alliance saying massive developmental works undertaken by the Government were not being digested by the NC and Congress.
Youth Services and Sports Minister and PDP leader Imran Raza Ansari repeatedly interrupted NC veteran Ali Mohammad Sagar’s speech, who was quoting from PDP MP Muzaffar Baig’s interview given to a news channel.
On Sagar’s charges of prolonged curfew, Ansari said it had to be imposed to save lives of people.
“We have to save the human lives. We did that by imposing curfew,” Ansari said.
CPM MLA MY Tarigami called for political solution to Kashmir problem through dialogue. He said it was responsibility of the State Government to pressurize the Central Government for holding talks with all stakeholders on Jammu and Kashmir.
“Every problem can be solved by dialogue only. The Centre must talk to Pakistan and stakeholders of Kashmir to find a solution to Kashmir problem,” he said and strongly denounced the civilian killings during Kashmir unrest.
The veteran Marxist leader said the dialogue only can help contain the unrest in Kashmir.
Referring to Prime Minister’s slogans of ‘Vikaas (development) and ‘Vishwaas (trust)’ coined for Kashmir solution, Tarigami said: “there was no trust in Kashmir”.
“There was no trust on us, the system and the Government. The Centre should help create trust among the people,” Tarigami said.
As Independent MLA Engineer Rashid, in his address, termed Jammu Kashmir as a disputed territory and pressed for referendum for final solution of the problem, former Minister and Independent MLA Pawan Gupta urged the Speaker to expunge the alleged anti-national remarks and sent the votary of referendum to Pakistan.
“He (Engineer) has to abide by the Constitution which says that J&K is an integral part of India but this man is repeatedly making provocative statements in the House,” he said.
Pawan Gupta was soon joined by BJP MLA Ravinder Raina and Rajiv Jasrotia while PDP MLA Javed Mustafa Mir also remarked that Engineer Rashid should be thrown out.
“Who are you to say Nikalo Bahar, you will not become Minister by saying this,” Engineer Rashid quipped and staged a walkout in huff.
While participate in the debate, Pawan Gupta held the Government responsible for allowing the Kashmir situation, aftermath killing of Burhan Wani, to go out of control.
Gupta said that he never saw such mishandling of the situation in his life while some controversial decisions, taken earlier by the Government, like removal of bunker without assessing ground situation and release of 624 stone pelters on the eve of Eid, had prepared ground for the unprecedented unrest.
Urging the mainstream political parties in the State as well as the Centre not to mislead by making false promises of Autonomy or Self Rule, Pawan Gupta stressed that only economic empowerment of the people of Jammu Kashmir and their development would resolve the problem.
BJP MLA Ravinder Raina squarely blamed Pakistan for problems in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Pakistan has been sending weapons and militants, leading to the problem,” he said and called for stern action against the neighbouring country.
Raina said the Government should go into root cause of Kashmir unrest, which had happened in 2008, 2010 and 2016. He said it was fight of democrats versus anti-democrats and the BJP strongly stands with democrats.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Naeem Akhter told reporters that the members of the Opposition should have listened to others present in the House.
“He should have listened to them as they could have also shown the way forward. Omar Abdullah every day says that he has committed mistakes. It is possible that he could mend his mistakes by listening to a small leader,” he said.
On Abdullah’s statement that Mufti should take responsibility for the unrest and resign, Akhter said, “It is their only concern as they had a monopoly in Jammu and Kashmir. The NC and Congress shared power alternatively, but now this monopoly has been broken. They have to learn to live with it.”
He claimed that in 2010, the PDP never asked the NC to leave the Government.
“The NC has a monopolistic mindset as they could not digest Mehbooba Mufti becoming Chief Minister. Now everybody has to work and people will decide the fate of leaders,” he said.